Monthly Archives: December 2007

Bad News-China Adopts First Anti-Drug Law

Chinese legislators have decided to go the route of most nations by passing the nation’s first law which makes use of drugs an illegal activity. The bill says owners and managers of discos, bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues are responsible to report drug takers to the police or face punishment. Police are authorized to search people and their luggage for illegal drugs at key public places such as train stations, long-distance bus stations and border crossings. The law does allow drug users to undergo recovery programs within their own communities rather than being imprisoned. Among the drugs listed in the law are opium, heroin, and marijuana.

Making drug use an illegal activity is a sure-fire way to increase the number of people residing in jails. China has an opportunity to go in a direction other than the American model which emphasizes punishment rather than assistance to those using drugs. This particular law which places responsibility on owners of establishments opens a pandora’s box of corruption as these individuals will soon be engaging in illegal payments to police in order to avoid being arrested. China, welcome to the world of jails and corruption.

Who Killed Bhutto? Where Does Musharraf Fit In Story?

President Bush immediately blamed Al-Qaeda or the Taliban or both for the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Words like “extremists” or “terrorists” are being cited for the murder of a leader who was challenging the regime of President Musharraf. However, in the streets of Pakistani cities, the cries are somewhat different as grieving followers of the fallen leader blame President Musharraf and the “agencies” of his government such as the Intelligence service. Yesterday, a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, which supports Musharraf, was blown up by a roadside bomb, undoubtedly by followers of Bhutto.

Lost in the anguish and confusion of the moment is the reality behind Benazir Bhutto who is being transformed into a fallen martyr. In a story published in the London Review of Books, Tariq Ali pointed out that Benazir’s own brother, Murtaza, who demanded a return to the original secular values of the Pakistan People’s Party, was murdered by police while she was prime minister of the nation. When Benazir’s niece called and asked why witnesses rather than the murderers were being arrested, her aunt replied: “Look,you’re very young. You don’t understand things.”

Over all the confusion and anger and hatred and fear that is now taking place in Pakistan hovers the shocking power of Pakistan’s ISI, the Inter Service Intelligence. Daniel Pearl, who was murdered by extremists, made his appointment with the militants while sitting in an office of an ISI commander’s office. Pakistani analysts are arguing as to whether or not the murder occurred due to al-Qaeda-Taliban elements or whether the murder was planned in the offices of the ISI. At this point, no one knows. Shortly before she returned to Pakistan, the Daily Times of Pakistan reported a statement by al-Qaeda leader, Baitullah, in which he claimed to have trained hundreds of suicide bombers to kill her. In all honesty, it is doubtful if ay truth will emerge in the coming months about her death. In the meantime, Bush and Musharraf claim it was the work of al-Qaeda, but to the people now raging through the streets of Pakistan, it was planned and executed by agencies in the Musharraf government.

From Fighting To Building, Says Petraeus

In an end-of-the-year letter to his troops, General Petraeus told them military factors had significantly improved which allows a new focus on nation building. He urged the troops to work on helping Iraqis obtain jobs, revitalize markets, build schools and provide needed services. At present the inhabitants of Baghdad are only obtaining enough electricity 11 hours out of the day which is not sufficient for develop a vibrant economy. Petraeus also believes the United States must urge political reform on the Iraqi government. However, the commander also recognized there are many military problems such as growing militancy in north Iraq as insurgents have left the city of Baghdad to fight elsewhere.

For some unusual reason, Petraeus did not focus on the deteriorating situation in south Iraq where Basra has now virtually become a city controlled by competing militia groups. There is something ironic in this letter. Years ago President Bush and his administration was urged by Middle Eastern experts to focus on political reform and exploring alternative solutions to the wide differences between Sunni and Shiites in Iraq, but these ideas were brushed aside in the euphoria of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. General Petraeus means well, but it doesn’t make sense to ask American troops to deal with political issues, such action depends upon an Iraqi Shiite government which intends to pursue policies that block Sunnis and to maintain control. Frankly, after four years, the reality is that Iraq is still a divided nation which would probably benefit more from a federal structure in which Sunnis govern Sunnis, Shiites govern themselves, and Kurds continue their independent process of governing.

At no place in his letter does General Petraeus deal with the growing loss of power faced by Iraqi women living in a fundamentalist Muslim nation that is the outgrowth of the destruction of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled and will probably never return. Secular Iraqis have been crushed by a government which allows fundamentalists to govern and impose their will upon the population. How can American troops deal with such conditions?

Military-Goodbye Pay Hike-Bush Will Veto Defense Bill!

Members of the United States military who were expecting a 3.5% pay increase(President Bush wanted 3% but finally gave in to Democrats) will have to wait because the president intends to veto the bill. His veto threat caught Congressional leaders off guard because until this point, he had never raised any objection to a particular item in the bill. The provision allows lawyers to have Iraqi funds frozen in cases involving the misdeeds of Saddam Hussein. Democrats argued the provision was meant to assist victims of Saddam’s cruelty to get compensation. The Iraq government now claims it would allow US prisoners of war during the Gulf War to sue for compensation! Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made clear, “the administration should have raised its objections earlier, when the issue could have been addressed without a veto.”

The ongoing arrogance of George Bush can no longer be a surprise to any American. He initially opposed the 3.5% pay raise as “excessive,” and now finds a minor issue around which to create chaos. If the issue was important, why didn’t the president inform Congress anytime during the fall about his concerns? He runs an imperial presidency in which the president does as he desires and damn the rest of the government. It is also interesting that Bush is bowing before demands of American bankers who don’t want the Iraqi government to withdraw funds. As far as they are concerned, victims of Saddam come last.

Czeching Immigration In The Czech Republic

Under new legislation passed in the Czech Republic legislature, there will be stringent new requirements for foreigners seeking to become citizens of the nation. An EU citizen would have to live in the Czech Republic for two years and be married for one year to a Czech in order to obtain permanent residency. There is now a language requirement making it necessary to speak the Czech tongue. A non-EU woman who marries a Czech and has a baby before the required wait time has elapsed would not have medical benefits event though the child is a Czech citizen.

The new laws are similar to others being passed in European Union nations to make more difficult obtaining citizenship. The Czech Republic now has 126,000 people from the Ukraine, 66,000 from Slovakia, and about 45,000 Vietnamese who live and work but are not citizens of the nation. The ironic aspect of tightening requirements is that Europe has a low birthrate and desperately needs more children so the only effect of such laws is to increase the need for children in the EU. The United States in the time period of 1890-1924 absorbed about 20 million immigrants, few of whom initially could speak English. The overwhelming majority eventually learned to speak English, but event those who retained their native language were loyal and dedicated Americans. Many fought for their nation in WWI and their children fought in WWII.s

New Iraqi Insurgent Underground– Hair Salons!

A new underground movement involves women furtively seeking refuge in homes where they gather wit fellow conspirators in fighting the oppressive Islamic fundamentalist males who believe women caring for their hair or personal appearance is a violation of their religion. A few years ago in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, hair salons were thriving just as they had under the regime of Saddam, but the installation of Islamic leaders led to the suppression of this feminist desire for beauty. Islamic extremists will not allow women to appear beautiful in public and beginning two years ago, many salons were blown up, several hair stylists killed, and others forced to close their shops. These same religious fanatics have also targeted liquor stores, barbershops and churches.

A Turkish reporter visited one of the salons where stylist Kifah, commented: “See this salon? It’s never been empty, nor through the Iraq-Iran war, the Gulf war, or this war. Women are women, they always want to look good.” She will not allow her full name to be revealed, citing the case two weeks ago in the city of Mosul when gunmen stormed the home of a woman who was running an underground hair salon and killed her. Last year, extremists blew up the beauty shop of Umm Doha who commented that two other salons were also destroyed in the same attack. She now operates out of her home as do many other hair stylists.

We Americans made Iraq free. We gave them freedom to abuse women, to drive Christians from their nation, and to install fundamentalist thugs who roam the streets of major cities intimidating women. In Basra, the police chief estimates over 40 women have ben killed in the past two years for their inappropriate “attire.” Such are the benefits of the Bush program for democracy.

Rumors Of Hamas Pro Israel Collaborators!

Hamas has strengthened security and arrested several members of the Islamic militant group following the arrest of several people who are believed to have been engaged in discussions with Israelis as well as with Arab and western intelligence agencies. These men were supposedly involved in a plot to assassinate senior Hamas leaders in the Gaza strip, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Several key Hamas leaders, including Sami Bu Zuhri, a prominent spokesperson, were summoned for questioning about their ties with Israel and other nations. Zuhri denies he was questioned and claims the rumors are being spread by Fatah supporters of President Abbas. The Israel Defense Force recently killed two top Hamas leaders who played an important role in firing rockets and rumors suggest their deaths may have been due to information provided the IDF by Hamas sources.

Hamas officials have reportedly expressed the view their organization has been infiltrated by Israeli intelligence which is now receiving information about rocket launches against Israel. Hamas, like most terror based organizations, runs the risk that some people grow tired of fighting and simply want some peace and quiet and a sense of normality. Hamas can break the present stalemate with Israel by throwing out a challenge — we will halt all rocket attacks and we expect all Israel military actions to cease against the Gaza Strip.

Ray Of Hope-Democracy Triumphs In Kenya

The nation of Kenya is experiencing a free election in which an opposition candidate apparently will gain the most votes and oust the present leader, President Kibaki. Unofficial results indicate that Alia Odinga, who once was a political prisoner is surging ahead with about 57% of the vote compared to Kibaki’s 39%. If Kibaki loses he will become the first Kenya leader to be ousted from office since the nation obtained its independence in 1963. At the parliamentary level, Odinga supporters are expected to obtain about 31 of 41 seats already decided. The fight against government corruption was an important theme of the Odinga candidacy and results indicate that vice-pesident Moody Awori has also lost his seat together with several other members of the cabinet.

The good news is a fair election took place and someone was defeated and will now leave office. This is the process all nations must experience. We Americans first had the experience in 1800 when John Adams left quietly and Thomas Jefferson became the first opposition candidate to gain office. Congratulations to the people of Kenya.

Pakistan-Confusion, Anger, And Wonder- Who Did It?

Angry mobs of Bhutto followers are now raging through the streets and provinces of Pakistan venting their anger at the death of a leader who they felt could restore democracy in their land and, hopefully, address issues of terrorism. Police are firing at demonstrators, bands of youth are closing down factories and other angry Pakistanis are burning cars, and, even ambulances as people attempt to find a way to express their emotions of fury at what has happened to their leader. President Musharraf announced thee days of mourning but made no mention of a state of emergency not did he indicate any change in the upcoming election for a new parliament. Leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, his political party, are reportedly now in hiding and they even have switched off their cell phones to escape detection.

Benazir Bhutto originally returned to Pakistan hoping to forge some type of alliance with Musharraf, but the president’s blunders in denying entry to Nawaz Sharif, sacking the supreme court, and then declaring a state of emergency helped set the stage for the current situation. There is scant doubt many members of the Musharraf military and Intelligence agents did not look favorably on Ms. Bhutto and strong suspicion exists they somehow are connected to the assassination. That is the horn of the dilemma– Musharraf’s own people disagree with efforts to ally with the United States or to attack terrorism. The Taliban originally were supplied and aided by the Pakistan Intelligence sector and undoubtedly many of those same people hate America hate secularism as personified by Bhutto.

Where does Pakistan go from here? The prospects are not good. Nawaz Sharif never completely shared the secular ideas of Bhutto and her party, at this point, lacks a figure who approaches her stature. An important step that Musharraf can take is restoring the Supreme Court judges to give a semblance of legality to the situation and entrusting them with responsibility for ensuring there is a fair election. Pakistan will have to wait for another figure to emerge who can lead their nation from the confusion that has been the product of Musharrafism.

The Times They Are A’Changing?

The Bush year of confusion and incompetence is now concluding with the disaster that is looming in Pakistan and the growing realization among many European Union nations that war in Afghanistan is reaching a dead end. Israel and the Palestinians struggle to find the where-with-all to create a peace process out of the confusion that was Annapolis and there is considerable doubt anything of importance will emerge in the early months of the new year. The only certainty one can make about the debacle that has been gradually building among members of the Bush administration is that something will be changing in the coming months.

Several months ago Rudy Giuliani burst on the scene with high expectations that simply relying on what Senator Joe Biden terms the famous message of the former New York mayor — “a noun, a verb, and 9/11″ would serve to catapult him into the presidency. After several months one can see the fatigue in Rudy’s face as people grow bored and learn more about him, all of which only serves to lower his poll ratings. Mitt Romney has become a joke because he will change his mind if a voter asks him to do so. Fred Thompson makes everyone go to sleep and poor John McCain struggles to get a word in that impacts upon people. Is the Huckabee horse which is surging to the front the change that America seeks? Or is it the nineteenth century message of Ron Paul that allows free reign to “individuals” and we can resurrect the old Robber Baron mentality that once made certain workers had no rights and minorities knew their place– at the rear of the bus?

Or, is the change coming from Hillary or Barack or John who basically argue the same ideas although they each have an individual wrapping for the present to America? It appears Hillary lacks the human quality which enabled men like Ronald Reagan to resonate with large sectors of the American population whose economic lives would be damaged by the former actor’s election? Perhaps, neophyte Barack Obama will be the voice of change since he does connect with large portions of the population, and with the good lord’s help by Pastor Oprah, he might yet gain the nomination.

Fast forward to January, 2009, and we know that a change will begin in America. Hopefully, the change will witness the end of dysfunctional Middle Eastern policies and a decision to initiate new policies in Afghanistan that would lead to some sort of resolution of what is now a quagmire of bewilderment. Iraq is still with us and will be with us in January, 2009, the only question is which Iraq. Iran stands on the periphery of the Middle East and a question is whether or not a new American president can reach out through the fog of rhetoric on both sides and enter into genuine negotiation with that nation in order to help stabilize the region. A new president will have to be firm and resolute in making both Israel and Palestinians agree to compromise and stand down from some of their rhetoric in order to attain peace.

We hope the times they are a’changing because the present stagnation is maintaining the world as is rather than forging a new world in which issues are addressed and some form of compromise is attained. The famous Bob Dylan song of the 1960s insisted the old had to get out of the way of the young because the times they were a’changing. If that is the message, then Barack Obama appears to be the voice of the current times that will be changing.